What did you want to become when you were a child?
Thomas: Not to be a graphic designer, but rather I wanted to be a Doctor, then later on a construction worker.
Valentijn: I wanted to be an Archaeologist, the guy who finds fossils of dinosaurs and is digging in the dirt with a little brush.
Thomas: And we became Graphic designers; though sometimes we feel like construction workers.
What makes your studio different from others and why?
T: We spend 90% of our time not actually designing, as we were in artist space in Gent, Belgium, called “019”, and we organised all sorts of events and exhibitions. We also curated flags and had two billboards in the city. So we did a lot of big events and installations.
V: It’s always a link in the direction to design, if you are a graphic designer you can do some nice things but you also have to fix all the problems, and we try to just do the fun part, I guess.
T: We also spend a lot of time of growing a collective and a community around all the things we do around all the young people, I think that’s very important, sort of building a scene.
V: We don’t know what we will be doing in the future, maybe only books, but we try to keep it interesting and in the present. We try to have fun.
T: Everything we do is a reaction of projects we did before or opportunities we get, and we will see where it will take us.
To which work would you say “no” to? Have you ever rejected a project and why?
T: We are bad at saying “no”, we should say it more often I think.
V: Yes definitely, we both have two young families and we should spend more time with them.
T : I hope we don’t have to say yes to a project that is only money based, but it does not matter what profession you are in. If you need money, then you sometimes have to say yes to a job that is maybe not the most exciting.
V: There is no clear answer because sometimes those jobs trigger something and in the end you are happy about it, and you always learn a lot of things even though it’s from the jobs we thought we should not have taken.
T: It’s the hardest thing as a freelance designer to decide what to do and what not to do. Maybe it a totally shitty process in the beginning and the end result can be amazing, and sometimes it’s the other way around, you are maybe crazy about a project but the process becomes not nice.
What triggered you to create your own studio?
T: It was very organic and natural. We knew each other before we went to art school. We were in a band together, made a record, yet nobody wanted to publish it. So we started a record label, called “spoken dust” so we could publish it on our own. We designed the cover for it, which was the very first thing we did together.
V: And then we started to sell the record and got some money in which we reinvested to make more publication materials, brochures and so on. We thought: we are young, we are just playing, and later on we will get a real job, but by doing this it became our job.
T. It was not a conscious decision that led to making it at real as it is right now.
What’s coming next
T: Some big things, I think. Today we did a talk about the project space in Gent, but soon we will start working on the second project space. It has no title yet, it will be much bigger and it will run for at least four years. So it is a really exciting time for us.
‘We Became Aware’ is a designer’ collective founded by Tomas Lootens and Valentijn Goethal and is based in Gent, Belgium.